Many iOS developers don’t have a Mac. This makes it difficult for iOS development on Windows. iOS development was not possible on any device running macOS for a long time. Many third-party cross platform solutions, such as PhoneGap or Titanium, promised superior performance and other development environments but did not deliver. You can’t use an iOS PC straight out of the box to develop iOS applications, but you can build, deploy, debug and test them on Windows with different techniques.
Cross-platform solutions are limited in their capabilities, but can still be useful enough for business applications. They don’t use Swift or Objective C at all, so they don’t require macOS or Xcode. Your options are limited if your app uses low-level hardware sensors such as shooting 4K videos with AVFoundation like Filmora, or if you need AR integration or a highly customizable UI.
What is Xcode? And what's the best alternative?
Xcode is Apple’s IDE to develop iOS and macOS apps. Xcode can only be used on Macs. It is not compatible with any other operating systems. Xcode is not available for Windows-based iOS developers.
Is it possible to create an iOS app for Windows?
You can still develop but it is impossible to publish and test your code without a Mac. Cross-platform solutions such as Xamarin and React Native, Flutter or Ionic/PhoneGap are available. These are the top cross-platform mobile development tools that you can use on Windows.
Xamarin to Cross-Platform iOS Development for Windows PCs
Although there are many applications that can replace Xcode, none of them provide the same experience as Xcode. Xamarin is one of the most popular alternatives.
Xamarin allows you to create cross-platform apps with C# from Microsoft. Xamarin Studio was the original standalone IDE, but it is now available as a plugin for Microsoft Visual Studio. Originally built on Mono, Xamarin has been fully integrated into the.NET framework. Users can now benefit from garbage collection and memory allocation.
Xamarin allows developers to create cross-platform apps using a single language, C#. This can then be compiled into native assembly code. Xamarin sounds great with lots of features. But there are limits to its capabilities.
Designing the UI for iOS apps is one limitation. Xamarin discontinued its Xamarin Designer a few decades ago, removing developers from the ability to use Xcode to create layouts. These steps have led to a greater dependence on Macs than Windows.
Xamarin allows you to create iOS apps for Windows. However, you will need a Mac to test it. You should ensure that Visual Studio IDE for Xamarin development on Windows has paired with a Mac build host. It is essential that an iOS SDK bundles all necessary libraries and frameworks in order to run an iOS app. This SDK is only available through Xcode’s developer tools. It cannot be used to run on a simulator without being connected with a Mac to test.
Hot Restart, a new feature that allows you to run iOS apps on your iPhone from Windows, is a basic option. It does not support storyboards or static libraries, and has its own limitations. It may be a breakthrough. But only time will tell.
iOS Development with React Native on Windows PCs
React Native offers what they call “Native Components”. These are UI components developers can create using React, but it also creates native iOS views at runtime. You can test your application on your Windows PC with an emulator of your choosing, but not iOS, after you have completed your application. Official docs state that your app can be launched on an Android Virtual Device (or iOS Simulator) using macOS.
React Native doesn’t yet have a large enough Native Components Library. You would still need a Mac in order to run it on an iDevice. Upload your apps to the App Store to reach the Apple market.
Coding an app is the most difficult thing we can do on a Windows PC. However, that’s not all. If you don’t own a Mac, there are still ways to get around these limitations. You can test apps on iOS simulators.
Can I run macOS under Windows?
This can help you solve serious problems. You could continue iOS development on Windows, but occasionally use a macOS environment to test it and then deploy it. Hackintosh and Virtual machines can be used to do this. It is a sad truth that a Hackintosh and Virtual machine can only be run on a high-end computer, such as Intel Xeon. Even then, it will not provide the same performance. Here are some options that you might want to consider:
Hackintoshs are systems that run Apple’s macOS on unauthorized computers. Apple’s macOS license only allows the operating software to be used on Apple products.
Macintosh uses a similar computer architecture to most Windows laptops. There are very few compatibility issues with macOS running on different computers. Hackintoshes are now famously prepared for AMD processors, thanks to the introduction of Threadripper and AMD Ryzen. Hackintoshes prefer Intel processors, since Apple switched to Intel many years ago.
It is essential that your Windows machine meets the requirements as stated on their official website. Although it can be tedious, preparing a Hackintosh is much cheaper than buying a Mac. This source guide will show you how to make a Hackintosh.
Many users have been sharing their Geekbench scores which show the performance loss they suffer. It is possible to have enough computing power, SSD and large memory.
You can now move beyond the limitations of iOS development on Windows PCs once your Hackintosh has been completed. Now you can use Macintosh instead of Windows OS. All actions can be performed using Xcode. This includes preparing, developing and debugging an application. Finally, you can upload it to the App Store.
Another way to run macOS on Windows is the Mac OS X Server. Although it is faster than Hackintosh, it does have its limitations. Yes, virtual machines can run macOS.
VirtualBox and VMWare
Virtual machines create an environment where the OS behaves like it does on the original hardware. VirtualBox and VMWare are required to create a virtual machine. Virtualization is a process that allows you to run multiple operating systems such as Windows, Linux and macOS.
To make macOS work on a virtual machine, you will need to have a disk image of macOS. It is not possible to run macOS on Windows on a virtual machine. You can get the OS directly from Apple and mount a disk in a virtual machine. There may be some configuration and unlocking required. You can find a good solution right here.
After you have macOS installed on your virtual machine you can use Xcode to upload your app to the App Store. VirtualBox can be used openly, but the VMWare license will cost you a lot. This is why you should only use this option if your virtual environment is already in place.
Read also: 5 Mistakes Avoid During iOS App Development
The Best Emulator on iOS for Windows
iOS developers who use macOS often rely upon the built-in simulator included with Xcode. iOS developers who use Windows must choose the best option out of a variety. Windows cannot run iOS simulators.
Appetize.io is a great emulator. You don’t need to download this web-based app to use it. Upload your app, and then run it. Appetize can be used by developers according to their requirements. Appetize allows you to test your app for free for up to 100 minutes per month. You can also opt for paid plans that range from $40 to $2000 each month.
You can view the design and layout of an app if you’re using non-native web platforms like React or Ionic. You can only run an app on your Windows PC with a few emulators. You can test the app on Android only during development. Then, you may use CI/CD services such CodeMagic or Travis for testing your app on iOS devices via Cloud. If your app is going to be used by millions, would that not be enough?
Do you need to develop iOS apps for Windows?
Although there are many ways to create an iOS app on Windows, it is not recommended. You cannot use an iOS simulator on Windows right away to test your app.
React Native, or another cross-platform simulator, can be used to continue developing apps. You can also test it on Android and Mac, but you will rarely need to deploy apps for testing. You might still face many problems before you are able to successfully complete these steps and get on with your app development. You will also have to worry about the App Store upload.
It would be much easier if you could buy an older Mac and then start using Xcode directly on it. Old Macs are very fast and offer great value for money. It will be easy to compile your code and test it on the Xcode emulator. It won’t matter if your code is published on the App Store. You can also use your Mac to create other languages such as Java, Kotlin and C#, C++ or Python.
Although many people still use Windows to create iOS apps, they must overcome a number of obstacles before the devices can deliver the results they require. Although it may be cool to accept the challenge, you will eventually get tired of being a developer.